Background: New British PM will likely be friend to Israel

blair 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
blair 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Speaking at the Labor Friends of Israel (LFI) annual fundraising dinner in April, Gordon Brown gave a glimpse to what his premiership may look like regarding Israel. Brown, now the newly installed prime minister, told how his father, a Presbyterian minister, had been a passionate supporter Israel who had taken him to Israel at least twice a year for most of his adult years to show solidarity with the Jewish people. "Many of you know my interest in Israel and in the Jewish community has been long-standing," he said. "My father was the chairman of the Church of Scotland's Israel Committee. Not only as I've described to some of you before did he make visits on almost two occasions a year for 20 years to Israel - but because of that, although Fife [Scotland], where I grew up, was a long way from Israel with no TV pictures to link us together - I had a very clear view from household slides and projectors about the history of Israel, about the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people, about the enormous suffering and loss during the Holocaust, as well as the extraordinary struggle that he described to me of people to create this magnificent homeland." Brown entered office on Wednesday promising to lead a government of "all the talents" and said his mission was to provide "the best of chances for everyone." Quoting his school motto, he said: "I will try to do my utmost. This is my promise to all of the people of Britain. And now, let the work begin." Brown is very much in favor of economic progress as a way of reducing hostility. Last year he asked his closest confidant, MP Ed Balls, to draft a report for the Treasury on the economic aspects of peace in the Middle East, linked to the British chairmanship of the G7 finance ministers. In his LFI speech, Brown said: "Economic development and political progress can go hand-in-hand. Belief in a vision of a better economic future must be harnessed to a clearer vision of final status and the political process that makes that vision a reality..." Speaking about the peace process, he said: "More than ever, as we all know here, there is an international agreement on the need for a two-state solution with Israel secure, with its borders recognized, alongside an independent and viable Palestinian state. "What remains at issue is when the time is right to make the choice for peace - a choice which both sides must have the confidence to make but which, if taken, I believe holds out the very real prospects of Israelis and Palestinians, despite all the difficulties we've seen, working side-by-side to build a future of prosperity in the region. And I, Tony [Blair] and so many others in our government are committed to working with all people of peace to achieve this." MP Jane Kennedy, chair of Labor Friends of Israel, said: "I have always felt that Gordon Brown is instinctively a good friend of Israel and I look forward to working with him. The combination of Gordon as prime minister and Tony Blair as Quartet Middle East envoy is a really exciting prospect and gives real hope for progress in the Middle East peace process." A cabinet reshuffle is expected on Thursday, with Margaret Beckett leaving her post of foreign minister. David Milliband and Hilary Benn are likely candidates to fill the role. Both are not renowned Israel sympathizers. However, Brown has already appointed former British ambassador to Israel, Simon McDonald, as his chief foreign policy adviser. McDonald served as ambassador from 2003 to 2006. Israel has expressed satisfaction with the choice, with Jerusalem referring to McDonald as "a true friend to Israel."